by Deborah Velto, Educator and Nature Museum Board Member
It was such a glorious fall in the Northeast that it is hard to believe that winter is on its way! As the temperature starts to drop and the days get shorter, thoughts turn to preparing for the cold and for more time spent indoors. Here are a few ideas for continuing to enjoy and appreciate the gifts of nature while inside your home this winter:
1. Create a seasonal table
Seasonal tables are a wonderful way to pay homage to the natural world and help us focus on the intricate details that make each season beautiful. Decorate your table with flora from the season, leaves, dried flowers, interesting rocks. If you have trouble coming up with ideas for your seasonal table, there are many resources online. Check out these great suggestions courtesy of The Green Parent.
2. Forage and freeze
Get those fresh berries, herbs, and other bounties of the fall and summer into the freezer for a mid winter surprise! Even if you don’t can or make jam, you can still enjoy summer’s flavors from your freezer. Berries are easy to freeze and are always a welcome treat in a winter smoothie. Reminisce about warm summer berry-picking days while you cook up some blueberry pancakes on a snowy morning. Make some fresh pesto and freeze it into ice cube trays for a burst of summer flavor when the summer seems farthest away! Freeze the stems and peels from fall veggies and use them to brew a nice vegetable broth on a cold day.
3. Nature crafts
Dried flowers, pinecones, and other pretty items make great materials for winter crafting days. Decorate wreaths, picture frames, candle holders, greeting cards with natural items you find on your next nature hike. Create unique holiday gifts with love using the little treasures you find outdoors!
4. Plan ahead for indoor nature play
Save those leftover fairy house supplies, keep some interesting bark from the wood pile, and dig up some of that soil before it freezes and store it away in the barn or basement for a few months. Pull it out for a surprise activity when you are buried in snow and ice. A tupperware bin filled with soil, dried flowers, sticks, pinecones, and tree bark can make for hours of fun on a dark winter’s day. Add some toy cars, animals, or action figures for some extra fun!
5. Rock the house
If your kids are rock lovers, you probably have a plethora of interesting rock collections around your house, in the yard, and in the car. Use particularly nice rocks as decorations in planters or window sills. Paint faces on your rocks to make pet rocks! Build an indoor fountain and fill the bottom with your favorite rocks. Use a rock tumbler and rock identification guide for some fun exploring geology.
6. Nature Journals - not just for summer days!
Nature journals usually bring up visions of leisurely writing on summer hikes and vivid descriptions of green lovely weather, but the extremes of winter can make for some great inspiration for writing too! Take along your journal on a winter hike or cross country ski. A starry sky on a cold winter’s night can make a great subject for a poem or stream of conscious writing too.
If you are up for a little preparation, a worm bin can be a fun way to keep the wonder of nature alive in your house. Worms will manage your natural waste for you, and leave you with plenty of rich compost for spring. If you have kids, this makes for a fun winter project full of interesting scientific observations! An online search will pull up many options for building a worm bin and obtaining the worms you need, including these step-by-step instructions posted on this straightforward web page.
8. Picture it
Take the opportunity to appreciate all of the pictures you took while enjoying the outdoors this summer and fall. Print and frame your favorite photos, and find a perfect spot in your home where you can see them when you are missing those warmer days. Digital photo frames are also a great option, because they will play a slideshow of your pictures continuously. There are many options for making calendars and coffee table books out of your digital photos too
9. Curl up with a good book
Reading some good nature inspired poetry or prose can be a great way to connect with nature while cozied up next to the woodstove. Dickinson, in her poem, "It Sifts" from Leaden Sieves, details a glimpse at a first snowfall. William Blake explores the mood of each season in a series of four poems, "To Autumn", "To Winter", "To Summer", and "To Spring". Pick up a novel thick with vivid descriptions of the natural landscape, like Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey, or a local fiction writer like Howard Frank Mosher. Plan for action in the spring by taking some time to read up on your favorite outdoor hobby or environmental movement. Visit your local library for nature themed picture books for the kids! Check out our own list of recommendations from 2016, "14 Delightful Books for Nature-Loving Kids".
Let’s face it, the frigid days of winter can feel endless and can leave us missing the easier days of summer. With some planning, you can continue to keep your love of nature alive within your home this winter. Taking time to focus on the details and beauty of the natural world can be both a fun and therapeutic way to pass the time while we wait for mother nature to wake up from her long winter’s nap.